Is Nuclear Energy Worth It?

Topics: Nuclear fission, Uranium, Coal Pages: 2 (688 words) Published: April 9, 2013
Nuclear power uses unstable elements like uranium. Uranium is constantly going through a process called nuclear decay, which means the atom is splitting apart over a period of time, measured in half-lives. This is why it is the element of choice for nuclear power plants. Uranium is special because it can go through what is called induced fission. Induced fission is when a free neutron is fired at an atom (like uranium). The atom will absorb the neutron, and immediately becomes unstable and splits apart. When the uranium atom splits, it will split into two separate atoms and expels two or three neutrons depending on how the atom splits. A single uranium atom, when going through induced fission, will release about 200 MeV (million electron volts). The atoms contained in one pound of uranium release as much energy as burning 1,000,000 gallons of gas. There are pros and cons of nuclear power, but is nuclear energy worth the risks? The good things about nuclear energy start with the environmental benefits. If done right, nuclear power will emit less than one one-hundredth of the green house gasses than coal or gas power. Coal and oil plants emit large amounts of CO2, which is proven to cause global warming, while nuclear energy creates no CO2 emissions. Compared to coal, natural gas, wind, and solar power, nuclear energy per kWh (kilowatt-hour) is the cheapest to produce. Although the running cost of nuclear power plants is already low, we are striving to lower the cost further by using new technology and by trying to better understand how nuclear energy works. With all these pros, there are still cons about nuclear energy. Nuclear power plants generate large amounts of highly radioactive material. This is from the leftovers, after splitting the uranium atom. You can argue that nuclear waste is a bad thing, but if it is taken care of properly it is not so bad. The highly radioactive rods are kept in cooling pools of water, which not only cools the rods down, but...
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